New Delhi: Close to .40 square km or 101 acres of forest area in Kech district of Balochistan, that also encompasses a national park and wildlife sanctuary, were allegedly burnt down by personnel of the Pakistan Frontier Corp (FC) and the Pakistan army to dissuade the Baloch freedom fighters from taking refuge in these forests.

Open source Investigation (OSINT) done by The Sunday Guardian by using the satellite images available with NASA clearly shows that almost 100 acres of area with the coordinates at Lat: 25.859, Lon: 62.668 was on fire on 20 September. These coordinates are of Kech. The fire, which started on the night of 19 September, continued till 21 September and despite repeated requests by the local Balcohis to the Deputy Commissioner of Dast tehsil of Kech, no assistance was provided by the civil administration to contain the fire on the orders of the FC personnel and the army.

The Sunday Guardian spoke to two individuals, including one government official, who is based in Kech, who confirmed that the fire was started by the armed forces.

“There used to be a lot of movement of the Baloch fighters in these areas and after taking part in operations against the Pakistan army, they would hide in these forests which are quite dense. One month ago, the FC had established one big army post that houses 40 men and multiple checkpoints in the area to eliminate the Baloch fighters. This recent fire was also started after the personnel of the army post realised that the Balcoh fighters would hide in these forests (which is locally known as Hapsagz Hasadi and Dabebi forests),” the government official said.

According to another individual, who spoke to The Sunday Guardian from Kech, the fire had also destroyed the small farms of the marginal farmers who were seen as sympathizers of the Baloch fighters by the Pakistan army.

“Acres of trees have been burnt down and since there is a very strict restriction on carrying a mobile in these areas, images and videos are not coming out as they need to be physically shared from one person to the other due to the long-standing internet lockdown in entire Balochistan. These farmers, who are all Balochis, had started returning to the area after three years when they had been forcefully evicted by the army. They are all poor farmers who are barely able to earn even Rs 70 from the farm produce. Even their farms were not spared by the army. The villagers had approached the Deputy Commissioner, seeking government help in containing the fire, but they were told by the officer that he cannot interfere,” the individual said.

The fire finally burnt out by itself, but not before destroying precious flora and fauna of the region.